What was blues legend BB King’s favourite tipple on a night in Harrogate?

Wave goodbye to jilted Brexit festival, say hello to Unboxed festival’s alternative celebration of these Blighty/blighted isles

YORKSHIRE arts and culture podcasters Chalmers & Hutch reveal all about BB’s choice of thirst quencher in their latest wide-ranging episode of Two Big Egos In A Small Car.

Under discussion too are a ViP night watching Kristen Stewart’s Spencer with a string quartet at Cineworld, Jack Kerouac’s road to Hebden Bridge, and exit Brexit festival, enter Unboxed festival, but what is it?

To listen, head to: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/9616189

More Things To Do in York and beyond as Dickens tales, dames and Damon drop in. List No. 59, courtesy of The Press, York

What the Dickens? Yes, James Swanton is reviving his Ghost Stories For Christmas at York Medical Society

FROM boyish Boris to Dame Edna, Christmas concerts to panto dames, Dickensian ghost stories to solo Damon, Charles Hutchinson has highlights aplenty to recommend.   

Dickensian Christmas in York: James Swanton’s Ghost Stories For Christmas, York Medical Society, on various dates between December 2 and 13, 7pm

AFTER the silent nights of last December, York gothic actor supreme James Swanton is gleefully reviving his Ghost Stories For Christmas performances of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, The Haunted Man and The Chimes.

“I’ve scheduled extra performances of A Christmas Carol: the perfect cheering antidote, I feel, to the misery we’ve all been through,” says Swanton. “But the two lesser-known stories are also very relevant to our times.”

A reduced capacity is operating for Covid safety, meaning that tickets are at a premium on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Boris: World King, under debate at Theatre@41

Political debate of the week: Boris: World King, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tonight, 7.30pm

THE year is 1985 and Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has plenty going for him, being young, posh and really rather blond. However, his efforts to become President of the Oxford Union debating society have been thwarted.

Never fear. Boris always has a cunning plan up his sleeve. Cue time travel, classical allusions and good clean banter in Boris: World King, Tom Crawshaw’s comedic exploration of a young man’s ambition and humanity explored as a half-hour one-man show. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Richard Kay: Co-directing York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir’s Christmas concerts

Harmony at Christmas: York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and the Citadel Singers, Christmas Traditions 2021, The Citadel, Gillygate, York, Tuesday to Friday, doors 7pm

AFTER delivering an online Christmas concert via Zoom to an international audience in 2020, York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir return to live concerts for Christmas Traditions 2021.

The Citadel allows room for cabaret seating downstairs and balcony seating that can ensure safe distancing is maintained, while the show retains its format of carols old and new, Christmas songs, festive readings and sketches. Box office: arkevent.co.uk/christmastraditions2021.

The poster for Damon Albarn’s night at the double at York Minster

York gig(s) of the week: Damon Albarn, York Minster, Thursday, 6.30pm and 8.30pm

DAMON Albarn quickly added a second special intimate album-launch show at York Minster after the first was fully booked in a flash.

The Blur, Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad & The Queen leader now plays two sold-out concerts in one night in his first ever York performances, marking the November 12 release of his solo studio recording The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows.

Albarn, 53, has been on a “dark journey” making this album in lockdown, exploring themes of fragility, loss, emergence and rebirth.

Martyn Joseph: Lockdown reflections on landmark birthday on new album, showcased in concert at Pocklington Arts Centre concert

Gig of the week outside York: Martyn Joseph, Pocklington Arts Centre, Thursday, 8pm

“THE Welsh Springsteen”, singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph, will be showcasing his 23rd studio album, 1960, a “coming of age” record with a difference, in Pocklington.

Last year, amid the isolation of the pandemic, Penarth-born Joseph turned 60 on July 15, a landmark birthday, a time of self-reflection, that shaped his songs of despair and sadness, gratitude and wonder, and gave the album its title. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Alistair Griffin: Series of Big Christmas Concerts in York

Alistair Griffin’s Big Christmas Concert, St Michael-le-Belfrey, York, December 3 (sold out) and December 10, 8pm; Alistair Griffin’s Candlelit Christmas, Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York, December 11, 8pm

ON December 3 and 10, a brass band greets revellers, then York singer-songwriter Alistair Griffin’s Big Christmas Concert takes a musical journey from acoustic traditional carols to Wizzard, Slade and The Pogues. “Sing along and sip mulled wine while enjoying the fairytale of old York,” says Griffin’s invitation.

On December 11, he switches from St Michael-le-Belfrey to a candle-lit Holy Trinity Church. “Take a seat, or in this case, a medieval pew and soak in the festive atmosphere,” he says. Cue mulled wine, Christmas tunes, acoustic festive numbers and a Christmas carol singalong. Box office: alistairgriffin.com.

York playwright Mike Kenny: New production of The Railway Children with his award-winning script at Hull Truck

On the right track show of the week outside York: The Railway Children, Hull Truck Theatre, running until January 2

YORK playwright Mike Kenny has revisited his award-winning adaptation of E Nesbit’s The Railway Children – first staged so memorably by York Theatre Royal at the National Railway Museum – for Hull Truck’s Christmas musical.

Directed by artistic director Mark Babych in the manner of his Oliver Twist and Peter Pan shows of Christmases past, original music and dance routines complement Kenny’s storytelling in this warm-hearted, uplifting tale of hope, friendship and family, set in Yorkshire. Box office: 01482 323638 or at hulltruck.co.uk.

Faye Campbell: Brushing up on playing Cinderella in York Theatre Royal’s pantomime, opening on Friday

Evolution, not revolution, in pantoland: Cinderella, York Theatre Royal, December 3 to January 2

YORK Theatre Royal’s post-Berwick era began last year with the Travelling Pantomime, establishing the partnership of Evolution Pantomimes’ man with the Midas touch, Paul Hendy, as writer and Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster as director.

After the 2020 road show, here comes the full-scale return to the main house for Cinderella, starring CBeebies’ Andy Day (Dandini), last winter’s stars Faye Campbell (Cinderella) and Robin Simpson (Sister), Paul Hawkyard (the other Sister), ventriloquist comedian Max Fulham (Buttons), Benjamin Lafayette (Prince Charming) and Sarah Leatherbarrow (Fairy Godmother). Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Unmasked: Barry Humphries tells all at the Grand Opera House, York next April

Hottest ticket launch of the week: Barry Humphries, The Man Behind The Mask, Grand Opera House, York, April 13 2022

AUSTRALIAN actor, comedian, satirist, artist, author and national treasure Barry Humphries will play only one Yorkshire show on his 2022 tour, here in York.

Set to turn 88 on February 17, he will take a revelatory trip through his colourful life and theatrical career in an intimate, confessional evening, seasoned with highly personal, sometimes startling and occasionally outrageous stories of alter egos Dame Edna Everage, Sir Les Patterson and Sandy Stone. Hurry, hurry, for tickets on 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york.

Who won the prizes in York’s biggest ever Aesthetica Short Film Festival?

Alfie Barker’s Hanging On: Best Of Festival Award winner at November’s Aesthetica Short Film Festival

ALFIE Barker’s docu-drama Hanging On has won the Best of Festival Award at the 2021 Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York.

Barker’s film, spotlighting the strength of community in a neighbourhood that unites when forced to the edge of extinction, also received the Best Documentary Award at November 7’s awards ceremony at the Yorkshire Museum.

Maria Martinez Bayona won a hattrick of awards for Such Small Hands – Best Thriller, Best Director and Best Cinematography – with its account of an unchecked pack mentality alienating a new arrival at a girls’ orphanage, whereupon she invents a manipulative game to swing the balance of power.

Best Advertising Award winner: Fiona Jane Burgess’s The North Face X Gucci

The Best Advertising Award went to the director’s cut of Fiona Jane Burgess’s The North Face X Gucci, Presented By Highsnobiety, in which a new generation of birdwatching enthusiasts are breaking the stereotypes of what outdoor recreation looks like and who it is for.

Frédéric Schuld’s The Chimney Swift won the Best Animation Award with its 19th century European tale of a child climbing up a chimney while a bird sails down into it to build a nest in an encounter with no way back.

The Best Artists’ Film Award went to Aleksander Johan Andreassen for Centarium, a film he staged and filmed in shopping centres during mostly normal opening hours as a chain of events is sparked by a mannequin coming to life. Andreassen’s camera follows two characters’ movements.

Best Comedy Award winner: David Dearlove’s Taj Mahal Presents…A Short Film

David Dearlove’s Taj Mahal Presents…A Short Film, a “short film for people who don’t like short films”, was very much liked by the judging panel, who gave it the Best Comedy Award. BAFTA-nominated actor and director Phil Davis stars in this humorous swipe at a genre that “often seems longer than it is short.”

Clap hands for Joshua Ben-Tovim and Roseanna Anderson’s Blast, winner of the Best Dance Award for a film that takes its cue from the growth of radical ideologies and modern art in London, 1914. From here on, they consider the ways in which we “progress” as a species.

The Best Documentary Feature, Daniel Edelstyn and Hilary Powell’s Bank Job, focuses on an unlikely team, seemingly insurmountable odds, even explosions, as they take steps towards a future wherein money works for us all. This mischievous film follows a community making its own currency.

Best Documentary Feature winner: Daniel Edelstyn and Hilary Powell’s Bank Job

The Best Drama Award winner, Romain Dumont’s See You Garbage!, is a dramatic comedy about garbage collectors Élie, Nino and Belz being surprised to be invited for Christmas at the house of the Prime Minister and the First Lady.

The Best Experimental Award, Michelle Williams Gamaker’s The Bang Straws, considers the violent mechanisms of 20th century studio films, taking Anna May Wong as its starting point to revisit the casting discrimination that she experienced.

The Best Fashion Award winner, Elisha Smith-Leverock’s Rejoice Resist “celebrates and shows Black pleasure as the ultimate form of resistance”, highlighting the importance of allowing yourself to feel joy in the face of adversity.

The Best Fashion Award winner: Elisha Smith-Leverock’s Rejoice Resist

Leah Vlemmiks’s Best Music Video Award winner, Tesfay, uses dance, narrative and documentary to tell the story of Witch Prophet’s late grandfather, Tesfay, who raised five daughters as a single father in Ethiopia.

Ta Pu Chen’s The Cleaner shone out at the awards ceremony with prizes for Best Narrative Feature and Best Screenplay. In the film, death-scene cleaner Yan-Ting and ex-convict Ah-Chun team up with En-Ya, who was born with a silver spoon attached, to not only scrub places but also clear uneasiness and grudges.

In the Best VR & 360 Award winner, Joséphine Derobe’s Meet Mortaza, 24-year-old Mortaza had to flee Afghanistan because he was sentenced to death by the religious authorities. Forced into exile, Mortaza will strive to reach Europe to ask for asylum.

Best Animation Award winner: Frédéric Schuld’s The Chimney Swift

The Best Editing Award was awarded to Wang Yuyan’s One Thousand And One Attempts To Be An Ocean, a film with the advice: “If you don’t want to drown, be an ocean” as it reflects on the experience of being unable to see the world with depth perception.

The ASFF’s Hybrid and Virtual pass-holders have a deadline of November 30 to vote for their favourite film online, via the festival’s virtual platform, for The People’s Choice Award. “Just look out for the ‘Vote Now’ button when streaming great independent cinema this month,” comes the advice.

All the prize-winning films can be watched on ASFF’s Stream On Demand online service until November 30. For more details on how to watch, go to: asff.co.uk/tickets.

In late-70s schooldays, no-one liked Abba, except Graham’s classmate, Guy Gibson

Forty years on: ABBA’s voyage back to the recording studio

NOW, even podcaster Graham Chalmers has bought into ABBA’s return after 40 years, buying comeback album Voyage.

Hear his verdict in Episode 65 of Two Big Egos In A Small Car, under questioning from Charles Hutchinson. Together they then recommend 2022 releases that could just be fabber than Abba.

Under discussion too are next January’s relaunch of bespoke Charm gigs in Harrogate; seeing/not seeing Soft Cell’s home-coming 40th anniversary show in Leeds…and Colin Firth’s hair in Eva Husson’s new upstairs/downstairs film Mothering Sunday.

To listen, head to: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/9570139

More Things To Do in York and beyond, as musicals abound, comedy turns angry and Madchester revives. List No. 58, courtesy of The Press, York

So frustrated: Paul Chowdhry has his say on Covid, fame, England’s football team and Tom Cruise’s chopper at the Grand Opera House, York, tonight

IMAGINE if you could have a busy week ahead? Let Charles Hutchinson fill your diary.

Angriest comedy gig of the week: Paul Chowdhry, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 8pm

AFTER barely surviving the pandemic, British-Asian stand-up Paul Chowdhry tackles the UK’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis and why the rules of six only worked for white people in Family-Friendly Comedian (No Children).

Two years of pent-up frustration go into this new tour show, where Londoner Chowdhry also discusses fame, England football fans and Tom Cruise landing his helicopter in someone’s garden. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york.

Chesca Cholewa: Writer of Imagine If Theatre Company’s My Old Man

Studio play of the week: Imagine If Theatre Company in My Old Man, York Theatre Royal Studio, tonight, 8pm

IMAGINE If Theatre Company, from Leeds, is touring a part-theatre, part-film production of Chesca Cholewa’s humorous and heartfelt play My Old Man.

When Michal Piwowarski’s granddaughter, Tasha (played by Cholewa), finally moves out, his whole world changes. The school dinner-lady becomes his favourite person, a new neighbour moves on to the street, and Michal (Paul Shelley) has to face his biggest battle yet as My Old Man follows the trials and tribulations of this old, blind Polish soldier. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorkthreatreroyal.co.uk.

Songs and Stables’ leadership: Kate Stables brings her band This Is The Kit to The Citadel tomorrow night

Experimental gig of the week: This Is The Kit, The Citadel, Gillygate, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

KATE Stables’ experimental folk quartet This Is The Kit return to York for a special show at The Citadel, the former Salvation Army HQ, presented by Please Please You, The Crescent and Brudenell Presents. Support comes from Nuala Honan and Pavey Ark. Box office: brudenellsocialclub.seetickets.com.

York artist Karen Winship, taking part in the Inspired Christmas event at York Cemetery Chapel

Christmas shopping? Opportunity presents itself at Inspired, York Cemetery Chapel, Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm.

INSPIRED, the annual Christmas show by York artist and designer makers, will be held at York Cemetery Chapel, in Cemetery Road, York, this weekend.

Taking part will be Jo Bagshaw and Richard Whitelegg, jewellery; Catherine Boyne-Whitelegg, pottery; Petra Bradley, textiles; Sally Clarke, collage printmaking; Angela Newdick, collage and surface pattern design; Adi French and Karen Winship, painting, and John Watts and Wilf Williams, furniture.

PQA York’s poster for Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr at the JoRo

Children’s show of the week: PQA Productions in Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow and Saturday, 7.30pm

PAULINE Quirke Academy (PQA) York journeys under the sea with Ariel and her aquatic friends in Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr, adapted from Disney’s Broadway show and film, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story of sacrifices made for love and acceptance.

Young mermaid Ariel longs to leave her magical ocean home and fins behind for the world above. First, however, she must defy her father, King Triton, make a deal with evil sea witch Ursula and convince Prince Eric she is the girl whose enchanting voice he has been seeking. Separate casts perform the two shows. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Adam Sowter, Florence Poskitt, Alexandra Mather and Andrew Roberts in rehearsal for Saturday’s Fladam and Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny

Witty and warm songs of the week: Fladam and Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Saturday, 2.30pm and 7.30pm

FLADAM duo Florence Poskitt and pianist Adam Sowter take to the Theatre@41 stage with thespian friends Alexandra Mather, Andrew Roberts and Andrew Isherwood for two shows of musical comedy joy.

Fladam’s own topical witty ditties will be complemented by a celebration of Morecambe & Wise, Bernard Cribbins, Victoria Wood and more. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Scarlett Waugh, left, and Libby Anderson: Sharing the role of Dorothy in NE Musicals York’s production of The Wizard Of Oz

Sparkling slippers of the week: NE Musicals York in The Wizard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Tuesday (23/11/2021) to Saturday

DIRECTOR Steve Tearle has assembled a cast of 60 for NE Musicals York’s energetic staging of The Wizard Of Oz, led by Libby Anderson and Scarlett Waugh, who will alternate the role of Dorothy.

Further roles go to Maia Stroud as Glinda; YO1 presenter Chris Marsden, the Wizard of Oz; Perri Ann Barley, Wicked Witch of the West; Finley Butler, the Scarecrow; Kristian Barley, the Tin Man, and Tearle himself as the Cowardly Lion.

Expect an all-singing, all-dancing production with special effects by Adam Moore’s team at Tech247. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Phoenix rising again: Phoenix Dance Theatre celebrate their 40th anniversary this autumn, opening their tour at York Theatre Royal

Dance celebration of the week: Phoenix Dance Theatre in 40 Years Of Phoenix, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday and Wednesday, 7.30pm

PHOENIX Dance Theatre launch their milestone 40th birthday programme at York Theatre Royal, bringing together highlights from the Leeds company’s groundbreaking history.

Phoenix will combine celebration and reflection in a show featuring Lost Dog duo Ben Duke and Raquel Meseguer’s Pave Up Paradise; former artistic director Darshan Singh Bhuller’s Heart Of Chaos; Henri Oguike’s Signal; Shapiro and Smith’s satirical piece Family and Jane Dudley’s 1938 masterpiece Harmonica Breakdown. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Director Nik Briggs, left, choreographer Emily Taylor and lead actors Sophie Hammond and Damien Poole at the launch of York Stage Musicals’ festive show, Elf! The Musical

Christmas musical of the week: York Stage Musicals in Elf! The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, November 25 to December 3

YORK Stage Musicals present the York premiere of Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin, Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin’s Elf! The Musical, directed by artistic director Nik Briggs.

Based on Will Ferrell’s 2003 film, Elf! follows orphan child Buddy to Santa’s North Pole abode, where, unaware he is human, his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth.

Given Santa’s permission, Buddy (Damien Poole) heads to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity and help the Big Apple to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Amaka Okafor: Taking part in the staged readings of Lucy Kirkwood’s Maryland at Friargate Theatre, York

Play readings of the week: Riding Lights Theatre Company presents Maryland, Friargate Theatre, York, November 26, 6.30pm and 8.30pm

TWO staged readings of Lucy Kirkwood’s 30-minute protest play will feature Amaka Okafor, from the original Royal Court Theatre cast, Laura Pyper, Mark Holgate, Cassie Vallance, Kesiah Joseph, Patricia Jones and Meg Blowey.

Kirkwood wrote Maryland as a “passionate and furious act of resistance to draw attention to the shocking numbers of women who repeatedly suffer violent abuse throughout Britain. The play is not specific; it addresses issues of police behaviour and a culture of violence against women and girls”.

After sold-out performances in London, the Royal Court offered Maryland for free for theatre companies to perform in solidarity and protest. York company Riding Lights has taken up that opportunity, with associate director Bridget Foreman directing the readings. Box office: 01904 613000.

James: Teaming up with Happy Mondays for a Manchester night out in Leeds

Gig of the week ahead outside York: James and special guests Happy Mondays, Leeds First Direct Arena, November 25, doors, 6pm

ALL of 33 years ago, Factory label mates James and Happy Mondays first toured together. Now, two of Manchester’s champion bands reunite for a November and December arena tour.

 “Last played with them in 1988, hopefully this time they won’t steal our rider or try and spike my drink,” tweeted Tim Booth, James’s Clifford-born frontman, when announcing the dates with rapscallion rascals Shaun Ryder, Bez and co.

James, who played Scarborough Open Air Theatre this summer, will be showcasing their “sweet 16th” album, All The Colours Of You, released in June. Box office: firstdirectarena.com. Stage times: Happy Mondays, 7.30pm; James, 9pm.

40 years on from Prince Charles and Diana’s first official York first, Cineworld hosts ViP screening of Spencer tonight

ViP screening of Spencer at Cineworld York tonight

FORTY years to the day since Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, made their first official visit to York, Cineworld York is hosting a special ViP screening of Spencer at 7pm tonight.

On November 12 1981, the Royal couple were greeted by thousands of well-wishers as they travelled through the streets in an open-top car.

Now, Cineworld is offering a “uniquely regal way” to experience Pablo Larrain’s biographical psychological drama, starring Kristen Stewart as Diana, in their premium ViP format.

ViP guests at Cineworld York will be “transported to Sandringham as they are given the Royal treatment with a meal prepared by a chef, unlimited snacks and luxury seats”.

To make this occasion extra special, the screening will include a free glass of champagne on entry and a string quartet in the VIP exclusive lounge.

To celebrate the release of Spencer, staff and customers at Cineworld York re-created the banquet from the film’s teaser trailer frame by frame. In the trailer, staff are seen preparing for a lavish feast at Sandringham, a process that the Cineworld York crew took off by swapping lobster for popcorn and carrying in hampers that replaced the royal crest with the Cineworld ViP logo. To watch it, head to Cineworld York’s Facebook page.

ViP is Cineworld’s luxury-screening format, available at five cinemas nationwide for selected films all year-round.

A ViP ticket at Cineworld York costs £31 and always includes: access to an exclusive lounge 45 minutes before the showing; complimentary dining prepared by a chef, with four courses, including desserts; unlimited cinema snacks such as popcorn, hot dogs, nachos and soft drinks, all included in the ticket price; an intimate screening room with luxurious recliner seats that come fitted with their own side table for snacks and drinks, and alcoholic beverages, available to purchase at the private ViP bar.

Nick Bashford, Cineworld York’s general manager, says: “Recreating the Spencer trailer was a fantastic experience and one that was thoroughly enjoyed by Cineworld staff and our ViP guests.

“We can’t wait for more guests to experience this unique way of enjoying Spencer for themselves. We host ViP screenings all year round but turning a part of our cinema into a portal to Sandringham is extra special. It’s not every day we have a string quartet at Cineworld!”

For bookings, go to cineworld.co.uk.

More Things To Do in and around York as pioneering dating show is game for laughs and love. List No. 57, courtesy of The Press

Seasick Steve: Just him, his home-made guitar and you at York Barbican tonight

CHARLES Hutchinson recommends veteran blues at the double, quilts, a dating show, chaotic Hitchcockian comedy capers, a Brahms Requiem and a Geordie comic out to dazzle.

Solo show of the week: Seasick Steve, Just Steve, A Guitar And Your Tour, York Barbican, tonight, 8pm

LAST year, American DIY blues veteran Seasick Steve released two albums, July’s Love & Peace and November’s Blues In Mono, his tribute to trad acoustic country blues recorded with a microphone from the 1940s as Steve performed the songs direct to an old tape machine. 

Now, York-bound Steve says: “I‘m lookin’ forward to coming and playing for y’all. Just gonna be me, you and my guitar. A few songs and a few stories, kinda like we just hangin’ out together! Gonna be fun. See ya there.” Tickets update: limited availability at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Sanna Buck, Stephen Wright and Aran MacRae look on as a prone Daniel Boyle takes centre stage in rehearsal for York Settlement Community Players’ The 39 Steps. Picture: John Saunders

Play of the week: York Settlement Community Players in The 39 Steps, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tonight until Sunday

PATRICK Barlow’s riotous West End comedy hit marks the Settlement Players’ return to live performance for the first time since March 2020.

Harri Marshall’s cast of eight takes on the challenge of combining John Buchan’s 1915 novel with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film scenes in a blend of virtuoso performance and wildly inventive stagecraft, playing 150 characters between them as the mysterious 39 Steps chase Aran MacRae’s Richard Hannay’s on a nationwide manhunt. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Hey, it’s The Manfreds: Playing the Grand Opera House, York, tonight

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be? It’s even better at Maximum Rhythm N’ Blues with The Manfreds and Georgie Fame, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 7.30pm

THE Manfreds and Georgie Fame team up for a celebration of Sixties rhythm & blues in an all-star line-up with hits galore to match.

Original Manfred Mann members Paul Jones, Mike Hugg and Tom McGuinness are joined by Family’s Rob Townsend on drums, Marcus Cliffe on bass and Simon Currie on saxophone and flute, plus former member Mike D’Abo to share lead vocals, and Blue Flames leader Fame on keyboards. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Ready to dazzle: Sarah Millican kicks off a three-night run at York Barbican tomorrow

Three-night run of the week: Sarah Millican: Bobby Dazzler Tour, York Barbican, tomorrow to Sunday, 8pm

SOUTH Shields humorist Sarah Millican’s new show, Bobby Dazzler, is doing the rounds on her sixth international tour.

“You’ll learn about what happens when your mouth seals shut, trying to lose weight but only losing the tip of your finger, a surprisingly funny smear test, and how truly awful a floatation tank can actually be,” says Millican, who has “spent the last year writing jokes and growing her backside”. Tickets update: limited availability at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Masks, of the non-Covid protection variety, will be worn by participants in ventriloquist Nina Conti’s dating show. Picture: Matt Crockett

Game show of the week: Nina Conti: The Dating Show, Grand Opera House, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

FAST-TALKING, faster-thinking ventriloquist Nina Conti and her cheeky Monkey host a pioneering new dating show for participants picked from the York audience.

What’s in store for the chosen ones? Apparently “she’ll be like Cilla Black with masks. Derailed. Not so much a Blind Date as a re-voiced one.” In a nutshell, they wear masks, she/Monkey talks, with no promise that true love will be found. Box office: atgtickets.com/york. 

Matthew Miller’s Golden Bird quilt from his Cloth & Colour installation at York Theatre Royal from Saturday

Exhibition launch of the week: Matthew Miller’s Cloth & Colour quilts, York Theatre Royal foyer, from Saturday to November 30

BASED in London, but from York, multi-media artist Matthew Miller launches his debut quilt installation in the first Beyond The Gallery Walls pop-up project to be mounted by Lotte Inch Gallery.

Artist Matthew and curator Lotte will be hosting the launch from 11.30am to 1.30pm on Saturday, happy to discuss his Cloth & Colour quilt designs. Interested in the ecological use of fabric in quilting, Matthew has used end-of-roll and pre-worn fabrics throughout his series of vibrant collages in cloth.

Alex Ashworth: Baritone soloist for Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem at Saturday’s concert by the Chapter House Choir. Picture: Debbie Scanlan

Classical choral concert of the week: Chapter House Choir, York Minster, Saturday, 7.30pm

THE Chapter House Choir performs Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem at York Minster in a rare opportunity to hear Brahms’s own arrangement written for piano – more intimate and transparent – with baritone Alex Ashworth, soprano Susan Young and pianists Eleanor Kornas and Polly Sharpe as the soloists.

This will be complemented by the world premiere of Lillie Harris’s Comfort, specially commissioned for Saturday’s concert. Box office: 01904 557200 or at yorkminster.org.

Open on Saturday: Carolyn Coles’s studio at South Bank Studios

Christmas shopping? Present opportunity at South Bank Studios’ Art & Craft Winter Fair, Southlands Methodist Church, Bishopthorpe Road, York, Saturday, 10am to 5pm

THE South Bank Studios artists’ group open their doors and studios to the public this weekend, when 28 artists will be exhibiting jewellery, ceramics, lino prints, textile art and fine art paintings and prints, all available to buy, just in time for Christmas. Entry is free.

Among those taking part are Carolyn Coles, Caroline Utterson, Jane Dignum, Lincoln Lightfoot, Richard Whitelegg, Mandi Grant and Fiona Lane. York Music Centre’s Senior Concert Band, Guitar Ensemble, Senior Folkestra and Big Band will be playing, and the icing on the cake will be the church team’s homemade refreshments.

Voila! C’est La Voix

Most glamorous show of the weekend: La Voix, Grand Opera House, York, Saturday, 7.30pm

FEISTY, flame-haired Royal Family favourite La Voix – the drag artiste creation of Chris Dennis – takes on the big divas and makes them her own in her Grand Opera House debut in The UK’s Funniest Redhead.

Billed as her “most glamorous show yet”, the 2014 Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist will be combining stellar songs and saucy gags, high energy and diva impersonations, glamour and gowns – eight of them – as she switches between the vocal tropes of Tina Turner, Shirley Bassey, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland and Cher at the click of a finger. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Millie Manders and The Shutup: Definitely not shutting up at the Fulford Arms on Sunday night

Gig with attitude of the week: Millie Manders & The Shutup, Fulford Arms, York, Sunday, 8pm

MILLIE Manders & The Shutup spark up cross-genre punk with a lyricism that pokes fun, draws you in or leaves you questioning social norms, teamed to vocal dexterity, grinding guitars, irresistible horn hooks and a pumping rhythm section.

The Londoners will be airing songs from October 2020’s debut album, Telling Truths, Breaking Ties. Box office: seetickets.com/event/millie-manders.

Willy Mason: Nine-year gap after he made a record called Carry On, but carry on he does at last with Already Dead album and tour date in York. Picture: Ebru Wildiz

Overdue return of the week: Willy Mason, supported by Voka Gentle, The Crescent, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm; standing show

NEW York singer-songwriter and lovely chap Willy Mason returns with Already Dead, his fourth album of characterful, sharp left-field pop, folk and Americana but his first since 2012’s Carry On.

“Magic, miracles, ghosts, world leaders; these days it seems there’s little left to believe in,” says Mason. “Lies outweigh truth and even truth can be dangerous. 

“Already Dead explores honesty and deception, anonymity in the digital age, good intentions with unexpected consequences, freedom, colonialism, love, God and purpose, because now is the time to restore some much-needed faith.” Box office: thecrescentyork.seetickets.com/event/willy-mason.

Soft Cell: 40th anniversary home-coming concert in Leeds. Picture: Andrew Whitton

Oh, and amid all these York events, here is the gig of the week outside the city walls: Soft Cell, Leeds 02 Academy, Saturday, doors, 6pm

IN 1981, Leeds synth-pop pioneers Soft Cell topped the charts with their Northern Soul cover, Tainted Love. This weekend, they play a 40th anniversary home-coming gig with an early start, kicking off with a DJ from 6pm.

LGBTQ icon Marc Almond and producer/instrumentalist Dave Ball will play two sets: the first from 7pm embracing songs from their back catalogue and previewing their first album in 20 years, Happiness Not Included, out on BMG on February 25 2022.

In the second, from 8.20pm, they will perform 1981 debut album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret in full for the first time. Cue Say Hello, Wave Goodbye, Bedsitter, Memorabilia et al. Box office: myticket.co.uk/artists/soft-cell

“This festival is a unique experience that you can’t get anywhere else,” says Aesthetica Short Film Festival director

Aesthetica Short Film Festival director Cherie Federico

NEXT year will mark the 20th anniversary of Cherie Federico moving from New York to York.

By then, the founder of Aesthetica Magazine, the Aesthetica Short Film Festival and Aesthetica Arts Prize will have lived longer in her adopted home city than her native United States.

In 2002, she came to York to study at York St John University and…stayed, seeing possibilities within these historic city walls for artistic innovation.

This is her busiest week of the year, hosting the Aesthetica Short Film Festival, now in its 11th year and bigger than ever, running from Tuesday to Sunday – and online until November 30 – with a remarkable 500 films; themed strands and guest programmes; masterclasses; an industry marketplace; VR (virtual reality) lab; interactive media lab; a celebration of the New Wave of filmmakers; mentoring sessions; networking opportunities and a Sunday awards ceremony.

“It’s become a very significant British film festival, and our ticket sales are healthier than ever,” says Cherie, as the festival restores live screenings in 2021 after last year’s entirely digital event for home viewing only. This year, you can watch in person or online or a hybrid combination of the two each day.

“People are buying hybrid passes to be able to soak up everything in the city – films, masterclasses, panels and discussions – over the six days and also to have full access to the virtual platform to catch up on films and masterclasses until the end of the month.

“There are more films showing than ever before because we’re offering the chance to experience them in different ways; some programmes are online only, some are in-person only, so there are some distinctive programmes, but there’s also cross-pollination between the two formats.

“The thing that has changed this year is that we’ve organised the films into six strands, which came about in response to the pandemic.”

ASFF’s films span documentary; advertising; narrative; animation; artists’ film; comedy; dance; drama; experimental; family friendly; fashion; music video and thriller. “The programme is still organised thematically by genre, but these films now move into different strands too,” says Cherie.

“I was thinking, ‘what are the key things that unite the films in this year’s programme?’, and I came up with How It Was, How It Is, How It Will Be, thinking about the past, present and future, focusing on extraordinary stories in the everyday.

“Strand Two, Humanity On The Edge, addresses ‘Crisis’, whether looking at the effect of climate change or the pandemic; Black Lives Matter;  LGBTQ+ issues; human rights; women’s safety. There is no more ‘normal’. It’s an idea that’s become redundant. Crisis has become a defining characteristic of life in the 21st century.”

Cherie continues: “Strand 3, When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade, is about hope, optimism, positivity. The glass is half full, as we take a lighter look at life to remind us of all the joy and beauty around us, as we take a moment to admire the power and resilience of the everyday person.

“Strand 4, Pleased To Meet You, explores Connections, how relationships are formed, and considers how the digital age has altered the way we build, maintain and cut ties, maybe irrevocably.

“Strand 5, Mirror, Mirror, looks at identity, how we decide who we are or, perhaps, who we want to be;  how you see yourself, whether you’re holding a mirror up to society or to yourself, and how the way you see yourself is often very different to the way other people see you.”

The sixth strand, Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free, addresses how segregation, racism, marginalisation and discrimination are systemic issues deep-rooted within society. “They are part of many people’s daily experiences,” says Cherie. “We must recognise that in the fight to establish true equality.”

In further festival highlights, New Wave introduces the next generation of filmmakers, with ASFF being the only British festival to offer a strand dedicated to graduate filmmakers, under such titles as The Art Of Limitation: Creativity Under Constraints (Saturday, City Screen, 3.30pm to 5.30pm).

The Guest Programmes have been curated by Rachel Pronger, originally from Bradford and now living and working in Berlin after deciding “it’s now or never to move”. 9/11, Twenty Years On is the subject of three programmes at Bootham School: Memories, Monuments (earlier today); In Search Of (Saturday, 3.30pm) and The Fallout (Sunday, 2pm).

“Part One looks at how did we get to the point where people steered planes into the Twin Towers; Part Two covers the day itself; Part Three considers how that moment led to a rise in populism and nationalism, and how you end up with Trump in the White House,” says Cherie. “That moment, 9/11,  galvanised some very dangerous attitudes harking back to 1939.”

Look out for a sound installation at Spark: York, a new location for the 2021 festival, where the sound of a rainforest is accompanied by a CO2 monitor. “The more people that fill the room, the quieter the room becomes,” says Cherie.

For the first time since the first lockdown in March 2020, The Basement at City Screen, York, is open,  playing host to the VR Lab for ten 360-degree films and six immersive experiences each day from 11am to 8pm.

The week’s masterclasses are welcoming the likes of filmmaker Peter Strickland (Katalin Vargo, Duke Of Burgundy); rising director Prano Bailey-Bond (Best Experimental Film winner for Man vs Sand at 2013 ASFF; debut feature film Censor); Hyena writer-director Gerard Johnson; actor Maxine Peake, discussing “acting as authorship”, and The Father producer David Parfitt.

So too are: stop-motion director Anthony Farquhar-Smith (Fantastic Mr Fox, Corpse Bride); rising star Gamba Cole (from Stephen Merchant’s BBC series The Outlaws ); Industrial Light & Magic’s VFX supervisor Julian Foddy and feminist filmmaker Sally Potter (Orlando, The Road Not Taken).

Still to come are: Senna, Amy and Diego Maradona documentary filmmaker Asif Kapadia (Yorkshire Museum, Saturday, 3pm); God’s Own Country and Ammonite writer-director Francis Lee, the Yorkshireman who “doesn’t often do” such Close Up encounters (Yorkshire Museum, Saturday, 6pm) and Alice Seabright, who has written and directed episodes of Netflix hit Sex Education (Yorkshire Museum, Saturday, 6.30pm).

A Sunday streaming at 1pm brings together actor and Primetime founder Victoria Emslie and Lizzy Talbot, intimacy coordinator for Bridgerton, who will discuss the tasks and techniques involved when working with an intimacy coordinator, one of the stage and screen’s increasingly important new roles.

“It’s quite remarkable how many big names we have taking part in the festival,” says Cherie. “It’s a huge, huge festival and it’s really important for people in York to realise the scope and the breadth of a festival that takes place in their city.

“It’s major cultural programming, and I’m proud of the dynamic we bring to the city’s cultural agenda. It’s extraordinary to be able to do this and we’re proud that we brought £2 million to the York economy in 2019, the last time we had a live festival.

“This festival is a unique experience that you can’t get anywhere else, and that’s what makes it so special: the combination of films, the masterclasses and the venues around the city; the union of the historic and the contemporary.”

Please note, ASFF is applying a stringent Covid-safety policy. “For admission, if you have had two jabs, you must show your NHS Covid pass; if not, you must have proof of a negative Lateral Flow Test that day.  There are no exemptions,” says Cherie. “We’re determined to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 at the festival.”

For full details on the 2021 Aesthetica Short Film Festival programme, go to: asff.co.uk.

Cherie Federico, director of Aesthetica Short Film Festival, is this week’s special guest for Chalmers & Hutch’s arts podcast

Cherie Federico: Aesthetica Short Film Festival director

THE 11th Aesthetica Short Film Festival is running in York this week and online until November 30. No better time for Two Big Egos In A Small Car podcasters Chalmers & Hutch to invite director Cherie Federico for a chat about York’s fiesta of film.

Under discussion too in Episode 63 are: Adele’s algorithms; The Young’uns’ gig theatre in The Ballad Of Johnny Longstaff at York Theatre Royal, and are Public Service Broadcasting’s powers of Bright Magic fading?

To listen, head to: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/9485479